Travel blogger Justine Ancheta is an authority when it comes to Barcelona.
She’s been living there since September 2008, and started her blog, Latitude 41, in December 2013. Originally from Southern California, Justine studied in Seville, and loved Spain so much that she vowed to return. When her husband found a job in Barcelona, they knew what their next move would be.
If you’re planning on hitting Barcelona for a break, here’s how you can save your money, avoid the normal tourist pitfalls, and squeeze every drop of fun out of your break.
Hi, Justine! Thanks for chatting to us. Let’s start with an easy question - what’s the biggest mistake tourists make when they come to Barcelona?
“Well, I guess not behaving like a regular citizen. People use Barcelona as a weekend crazy-fest, and admittedly, it can be kind of funny seeing a group of people dressed up. But it's not funny when they're being loud and obnoxious, causing trouble. The locals are getting quite tired of it, actually!”
What hints and tips would you tell first-time visitors?
“Find out how much things cost, generally. You don't want to get ripped off! Plus, know how to use the transportation system. It might be confusing at first, but it's good to know that you can buy just the one card to use different ways of getting around. A lot of people are afraid to get on a metro or bus, but it's really one of the most convenient ways to get around.”
How do people in Barcelona go out – how is it different to England?
“People get started pretty late - dinner is at 9pm or 10pm. People don't start showing up to places until about midnight or later!
“The locals are pretty moderate when it comes to drinking, so maybe they've had a bit beforehand, but nothing too crazy. And you can easily go from bar to bar, so if you enjoy moving around, you’ll love the drinking culture.”
Where are the best places to drink to avoid the crowds?
“There are crowds everywhere in Barcelona. The most crowded place is the centre - El Born, Raval and Gotic are normally heaving with people. Perhaps Poblenou is a little less crowded, but it’s still busy. Basically, if you come out to drink, you’ll always be around people!”
A lot of people are concerned about street crime in Barcelona. Are their fears unfounded, or do you have to be pretty savvy?
“Street crime can be an issue – but you can mimimise your risk. The good news is that it's petty theft! Violent crime is extremely rare. The best thing you can do is know where your wallet is at all times. Know how to keep it safe. If you have a purse, keep it very close at a restaurant - don't just hang it on a chair somewhere. Be vigilant.
“I never worry about other crimes. I'm sure they happen – but I take my kids out at night, and I don't worry at all.”
If people want to fit in with the Barcelona way of life, what should they do?
“It's best to learn Spanish. Catalan is better, but if you make the effort, it's much appreciated. People here are pretty social - your neighbours will like you more, too. You won't be so closed off.
“Some people go for years and years without trying. But if you want to make a life here, it’s the way forward. You get to know others’ way of life and get a genuine feeling for the people. Definitely learn the language or you'll just live in a bubble.”
Where are the best markets, if people want to grab a bargain? Are there any shops and chains you’d advise people to avoid?
“A bargain... hmmm! There's the huge Encants Vells, if you're looking for low-priced goods, non-brand name items. Food markets are all pretty much the same. If you want cheap clothes, you can always find shops like Primark and H&M. For moderately priced clothes, Zara is always good, and the quality is a little better.”
When is the best time to shop, if people want a quieter experience?
“Go at 10am, when the shops open. Then again at 5pm when they re-open in the afternoon. However, some shops never close as so they're busy all day!”
Finally, please can you describe Barcelona in five words?
“Magnetic, energetic, forward-thinking, colourful, and amazing!”
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